The fall colors are back – the bright yellow of the school buses, the orange and gold of the falling leaves, and the red in my daughter’s cheeks as I tell her it’s time to clean out her closet to prepare to go back to school. I remember sobbing over large plastic containers as I carefully folded away first her 0-3 month sleepers, then her first pair of sneakers, and more recently, an adorable striped 3T Henley that she insisted on wearing weekly. Now she is the one who does the crying when I tell her that it is time to go through the dreaded back to school ritual – the trying on of the clothes. In our house this task is met with fits and tears because it inevitably consumes times better spent enjoying those fleeting summer days and often ends with tough decisions about which items will make it through one more season and which favorite outfits will not return. But this year I’ve got a plan. I’m going to make organizing my children’s closets fun (both for them and for me!) or I’m going to die trying. The plan is simple:
1. Remove clothing beforehand if you know it’s too small:
Remember those shirts that you passed off as ¾ sleeves last fall when really you knew they didn’t fit anymore? Or how about those ankle-length pants that you pretended were capris…short capris? It’s time to pull those items from her closets or drawers before she becomes a part of the festivities. It will be less emotional for both of you if she’s not there, and there will be less time standing around for her.
2. Find one shirt and one pair of pants to be your barometer:
If your child is like my son, the thing that he hates most about this task is having to stand still long enough for me to place shirts and pants against his back in order to check for torso length, sleeve length, and pant inseam length. Look through his closet first and find one shirt with questionable sleeve length, one that looks like it will just go to his waist, and one pair of pants whose leg looks exactly the right length. Grab your little guy and check on those three measurements and if they work, use those items to test the rest of the closet. This will save you from telling him to come back into the room “one more time” over and over again.
3. Plan ahead for next year:
Those of us who only have enough kid closet space for one season’s worth of clothing must not only take this time to clean out undersized fall clothing, but we’ve also got to sort and store our children’s summer wear. Want to have an easier time come this spring? Take the time now to eliminate the items that barely fit your child – it’s a safe guess that when May comes back around, they will no longer make the cut.
4. Have a fashion show:
You’ve eliminated the shirts that are clearly too small, you’ve used your barometer items to choose the sure thing clothes while your child played happily away from closet cleaning central, but now you’ve got a pile of “maybe’s. If you button that dress, will it be too tight on your daughter’s neck? Does that shirt seem a little narrow compared to what your son is wearing these days? It’s time for a fashion show! Utilize a play date (hey, it’s dress-up, right?) and let your daughter’s friend in on the fun while her mom helps you make the tough decisions. Grandma or Grandpa visiting? Make them your instant audience. And keep the safety pins handy. If you’ve got a couple of items that you may need to hem, this is the perfect opportunity to safely pin them up without giving your child a chance to protest.
5. Let your little one make some decisions:
Last spring I chose to put shorts and t-shirts on the top rack of my daughter’s closet because it made the most sense to me at the time, but I ended up spending the summer retrieving clothing for her because she can’t reach that rack. This fall I’m going to allow her to make some decisions about how her closet is organized. Does she want the dresses next to the pants, or do they get their own special section? Would she like to hang her clothing up by outfit, or would she perhaps like her shirts categorized by color? Letting her get involved now will make the project more fun and hopefully motivate her to keep her clothing more organized going forward.
A mom can dream, right?